Jeanette Island, McClure Islands

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Jeanette Island, McClure Islands

by | Oct 21, 2020

Jeanette Island is a barrier island about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) long, and one of McClure Islands on the Beaufort Sea coast, about 92 miles (148 km) west-northwest of Kaktovik and 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Deadhorse, Alaska. Jeanette Island was named in 1881 by Lieutenant Commander George W. DeLong, on the U.S. Navy steamship USS Jeanette during the U.S. Arctic Expedition, also known as the Jeanette expedition.

The Jeannette expedition of 1879–1881 was an attempt led by De Long to reach the North Pole by pioneering a route from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait. The premise was that a temperate current, the Kuro Siwo, flowed northwards into the strait, providing a gateway to the Open Polar Sea and thus to the pole. However, the USS Jeannette, and its crew of 33, was trapped by ice and drifted for nearly two years before being crushed and sunk north of the Siberian coast. De Long then led his 32 men on a perilous journey by sled, dragging Jeannette’s whaleboat and two cutters, eventually switching to these small boats to sail for the Lena Delta in Siberia. During this journey, and in the subsequent weeks of wandering in Siberia before rescue, 20 of the ship’s complement died, including De Long.

The McClure Islands include Narwhal, Jeanette, and Karluk islands. The island group was named by Ernest de Koven Leffingwell for Captain Robert McClure of the Royal Navy who discovered them in 1850. The McClure Arctic expedition of 1850, among numerous British search efforts to determine the fate of Franklin’s lost expedition, is distinguished as the voyage during which the Irish explorer Robert McClure became the first person to confirm and transit the Northwest Passage by a combination of sea travel and sledging. Read more here and here. Explore more of Jeanette Island here:

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